Shrimp Products Shrimp Sauce / Paste / Dried


[Kapi, Gapi, Gkabpi (Thai); Terasi (Indonesia); Blachan, Petis Udang (Malay); Mam tom, Mam ruoc (Vietnam); Bagoong alamang (Philippine); Hom ha, Hay koh (China); Saeujeot (Korea); Pazun Ngapi (Burma)]

Shrimp paste is very important to sauces and dishes throughout Southeast Asia and Southern China. Basically it's shrimp, usually very tiny shrimp, salted, fermented, and dried until it breaks down into a paste which may be bottled or pressed into cakes.

Much has been made of the overpowering smell and strong salty taste, but I haven't noticed these to be a problem, at least in high quality bottled products. Now the pressed block products are another matter entirely, you're going to want to seal them up tight in a jar.


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Almost Everywhere
Dried Shrimp [Hibi (Philippine); Ebi (Indonesia); Ebi (Japan (fresh or dried)); Kung Haeng (Thai); Tom Kho (Viet)]

Dried Shrimp are used throughout Asia, Mexico, Central and South America, much of Africa and Louisiana in the US. In most cases they are ground to powder or soaked and mashed to paste for use in recipes, but they may simply be fried whole (often in Africa) and can be eaten as is as a snack (Louisiana). They are a flexible and powerful flavoring ingredient in many recipes.   Details and Cooking.

Burma
Burmese shrimp paste, Pazun Ngapi, is said by some sources to be much like the Thai, but a little softer. Other sources say it's more like the Malaysian. Well, Burma shares a long border with Thailand so I'd say Thai shrimp paste is suitable, but the Malaysian kind might also be used.

China
Shrimp Paste Hom ha / Hay koh is used in southern coastal China for stir fries, with vegetables (particularly Ong Choy) and pork, but not a lot elsewhere in China. It is ground smooth, darker, more pungent, less shrimpy and saltier than most shrimp sauces but not so dark and salty as the Malaysian. The photo sample is Koon Chun brand, made in Hong Kong and widely available in Southern California.

Indonesia
Roasted Blocks Terasi is made similar to Belacan (and may even be labeled "Belacan") but varies buy region of manufacture as to exact composition. Color ranges from reddish-purple to dark brown and it may be made of a mixture of shrimp, fish and vegetables. It is pressed into blocks, and as with Belacan it is roasted before use - wrapping in foil and holding over a burner flame until aromatic works well. It is also sometimes available as pre-roasted slices individually wrapped, as in the photo. This product can be kept at room temperature for many months if tightly wrapped and kept dry. You'll want it tightly wrapped in any case to confine the distinctive odor. It's best kept in a tightly capped jar.

Korea
Korean Salted Shrimp Saeujeot is an important ingredient in Korean cuisine, these shrimp are whole and very salty but only mildly fermented so they have very much less flavor (and aroma) than the similar looking Malaysian Cincalok. Saeujeot is used as a general condiment and seasoning, sometimes in place of plain salt, and particularly in kimchi.

Malaysia
Cincalok Cincalok (say chin-cha-lo) is a pinkish paste of whole tiny shrimp, salt and rice flour popular in Malaysia as a dipping sauce mixed with lime juice and shallots (Sambal Cincalok). It is also used in marinades for pork, as an ingredient in omelets and in steamed vegetable recipes. A required ingredient for Nonya cooking in Singapore, it's sold in glass bottles. It has a notably pungent aroma and taste, considered an acquired taste even by some Malaysians.

Malaysia
Petis Udang is a black shrimp paste with the consistency of molasses and made from fermented shrimp, salt, sugar and flour, similar to Chinese shrimp sauce. It is served as a condiment and added to soups.

Malaysia
Block of Blachan Blachan is tiny shrimp mashed and fermented for a couple of months. It is then fried and pressed into cakes. When used, it is first roasted - wrapping in foil and holding over a burner flame until aromatic works well. This product can be kept at room temperature for many months if tightly wrapped and kept dry. You'll want it tightly wrapped in any case to confine the distinctive odor. I keep mine tightly sealed in a glass jar. I have also found this product "pre-roasted", consisting of 1/4 inch thick slices from the block individually wrapped.

Philippines
2 Bagoongs Bagoong Alamang (also spelled Bagoong Aramang) is tiny shrimp or krill salted, fermented dried and crushed into a paste. The pink version is as fermented, but the color may vary because it is enhanced with Red Dye #3, sometimes more than excessively.. The brown version, Bagoong Alamang Guisado, is the pink fried in oil with vinegar, salt, sugar, garlic and onions. Bagoong Guisado is made in regular, sweet and spicy versions. To be honest, the pink version dyes food such a horrid unappetizing color I recommend sacrificing authenticity and using shrimp paste from some other culture. All versions are also used as table condiments.

Thailand - With Soy Oil   -   [Kapi, Gapi]
Blob of Kapi w/Oil

Kapi is still made in fishing villages and collected by agents for packing companies. Basically it's just whole tiny shrimp salted and dried (larger shrimp will be fermented before drying). Some sources say this is not made from shrimp, but a similar crustacean, but there is no true scientific definition of "shrimp" or "prawn", so call it what you will. In any case it is made from genus Acetes (most) or genus Mesopodopsis. The packing company may add other ingredients, typically: soybean oil, garlic, salt, pepper, paprika oleoresin. It is often roasted before use - wrapping in foil and holding over a burner flame until aromatic works well.

Buying: Pantainorasingh and Tra Chang are quality brands widely available in the US. Pantainorasingh is the brand I usually have on hand. The small 3.2 ounce jar is adequate for most of us. While properly made kapi may last for weeks at room temperature it's best to refrigerate it once opened, where it will keep indefinitely.

Thailand - Without Soy Oil   -   [Kapi, Gapi]
Blob of Kapi wo/Oil

Kapi is still made in fishing villages and collected by agents for packing companies. Basically it's just whole tiny shrimp salted and dried. Some sources say this is not made from shrimp, but a similar crustacean, but there is no true scientific definition of "shrimp" or "prawn", so call it what you will. In any case it is made from genus Acetes (most) or genus Mesopodopsis. For this type, the packing company does not add oil or other major ingredients. It is often roasted before use - wrapping in foil and holding over a burner flame until aromatic works well.

Buying: This form is very uncommon compared to the form with oil, and I found only two brands in one of the largest Asian markets in Los Angeles, and none in others. The photo specimen is Nang Fah (Tue Kung) brand, which contains only shrimp and salt. Pantainorasingh is also available but has some other ingredients and is sweetened with saccharin. Recommended storage is "in a cool dry place", but it's best to refrigerate it once opened, where it will keep indefinitely.

Thailand - North   -   [Kapi Kung]
Faked up Kapi Kung

Kapi Kung, the Shrimp Paste of northern Thailand, is not currently available in North America, even in Los Angeles. Andy Ricker, who is extremely fussy about true Thai taste, suggests faking it up from Korean salted shrimp and a little regular Thai Kapi (the kind without oil).   Details and Cooking.

Vegetarian
Vegetarian shrimp paste, often called Vegan Belacan is said to exist, and be made of fermented soybeans and salt. Just use Thai Yellow Bean Sauce which is easily available and made of fermented soybeans and salt.

Vietnam - Mam tom / Mam ruoc
Blob of Shrimp Paste

Mam Ruoc / Mam Tom is made similarly to Thai Kapi, but the process is a bit more complex and it ends up much darker and a more purple color. It's generally ground smooth and packed in jars or small tubs. Mam tom is the name in North Vietnam, Mam ruoc in Central and South Vietnam. The photo sample is made by Gia Minh in Saigon (yes I know it's Ho Chi Minh City now, but, like Leningrad, that will pass.

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